Finding things to be grateful for, recognizing scars from past problems and being solution-driven are a few tips Joshua Okpara expands on in his upcoming book How to Deal with Real Pain in Real Time.
Okpara’s book, his third, describes his personal struggle with depression. He offers tips, guidelines and mini assignments to readers throughout the book as well. It will be available Friday on Amazon and Barnes & Noble through Amazon’s publishing services, CreateSpace Independent Publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing.
Okpara, 23, is senior pastor at Faith Filled Church in Denton which he founded with his wife, Charmecia. He also founded the Dedicated Men, a student organization with a goal to “create a brotherhood of financially literate leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars and professionals, who know their identity in Christ.”
“Coming out of [depression] showed me how I could have dealt with it better,” said Okpara, a graduate of the University of North Texas. “I was supposed to write this book a year ago, but I didn’t want to write yet because I was still dealing with pain.”
Okpara’s mother died of kidney failure when he was 8 years old, but he said he didn’t truly understand what happened back then. Although he still had his father and older sister, he said he was forced to grow up and take care of his sister, resulting in “never [having] a childhood.”
His father later remarried and the family left Nigeria for the United States. That was when the bullying began for Okpara, for his accent and for being different. At age 14, Okpara said he attempted suicide but failed.
The Mayo Clinic lists several types of depression ranging from mild, temporary forms of sadness to clinical depression, one of the most severe forms of depression. Okpara spoke of the most mild and most severe and said he’s met people on both ends of the spectrum.
About 7.1% of American adults suffered through at least one major depressive episode in 2017, according to the federal National Institute of Mental Health.
The term “major depressive episode” means as a period of at least two weeks when a person experiences a depressed mood or loss of interest in daily activities and symptoms such as problems with sleeping, eating, concentration and self-worth.
While growing up, Okpara said he felt he couldn’t get the help he needed from those around him. He said it was because of his Christian background, where people are sometimes told to “just pray about it” to deal with depression.
Denying professional help in favor of prayer is denying aspects of God, he said.
“The thing about being born in a Christian home, we can be very close-minded to mental [health] issues,” Okpara said. “Just like God can get a doctor to help you through your surgery, you can have God help you through a counselor.”
Okpara has tasks, tips and guidelines in his book to help readers as they go from chapter to chapter and learn to deal with depression. One chapter pauses in the middle to let the reader list 15 things or people they’re grateful for.
“When you start to look and find people you’re thankful for in your life, it gives you hope,” he said. “It’s not just a regular book you read, but also a workbook.”
Another tip Okpara offers is to learn to recognize scars from past trauma by questioning yourself.
“There’s different scars we have in our life that remind us of the pain [we went through],” he said. “The way to recognize scars is whenever you’re dealing with those moments, question yourself. It’ll lead you to be more solution-driven than problem-driven.”